Burns Lake local, Ray Maher has committed to fund summer students for Ducks Unlimited Canada in B.C., for the next 10 years.
Maher, currently a national director with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and the chairperson for B.C’s provincial council made the donation that would help several students study and research with DUC.
“It’s important we give the next generation of students the opportunities to further the important research critical to Ducks Unlimited Canada,” said Maher.
The timely donation from Maher, made the recent UBC Okanagan graduate Richard Topp’s job with DUC possible, just as he was out of work due to the pandemic.
Topp completed his Bachelor of Science degree and had a job lined up with the City of Delta. However with the pandemic, Topp found himself on the outside looking in as job cuts ended his employment before it even started.
“It was quite difficult,” said Topp, who had worked as a student in conjunction with Ducks’ Spartina invasive plant program. “I was in a real tight spot. I was jobless for about a month and wasn’t sure what I was going to do.” That’s when the donation opened up a position with the DUC for Topp, for an amphibian salvage project.
“An amphibian salvage was something I had never done, so it was great to be able to gain that experience,” he said. “It allows me to build my skill set in a time when I wasn’t sure I would even have a job.”
Maher’s commitment to the organization spans back almost five decades, starting with his love of waterfowl hunting growing up on the Prairies where he recognized the need to protect the rapidly decreasing number of wetlands.
Maher went on to study biology and later worked as a taxidermist. He settled with his family in Prince George in the early 1990s before taking on a new career path in Burns Lake, taking over ownership on a road maintenance business in Burns Lake.
Maher said another significant motivating factor for his donation to DUC was his career path.
“Coming out of university, there weren’t very many opportunities for up-and-coming biologists. There is a huge need for on-the-ground research, and providing summer students with the chance to get a foot in the door is critical for Ducks and conservation. It’s nice when you see them working in the summer and then end up working for us once their education is complete.”
Maher says today’s students will be instrumental in helping Ducks in the years to come, helping rejuvenate its membership and drive its science-based approach to conservation. He also stressed the donation would help bridge the gap that Ducks is facing when it comes to generating revenue to fund its work.
“Our fundraising is mostly done face-to-face, and we all know that’s impossible at this time. So hopefully, this will prompt others who can think about where they donate,” says Maher.
Sarah Nathan, Manager of Provincial Operations for DUC in B.C. says the donation provides peace of mind in an economy disrupted by the pandemic.
“Having a 10-year commitment to fund summer student positions has been an absolute game-changer for us in our conservation program,” says Nathan. “It really adds stability, and helps us plan our summer seasons in advance, allowing us to maximize learning opportunities for students as well as benefits to our program.”
Topp is grateful for the opportunity, knowing the work he is doing with Ducks is building his resume by offering a wide range of skills needed for conservation work.